Giant’s Reign has been evolving for years now, generally getting both lighter and slacker with each passing season. The 2011 version is no exception. What’s more, it receives a tapered-steerer-compatible Overdrive head tube that’s raked out by 1.5° compared to the 2010 bike.
Ride & handling: Stiff and light but rear suspension never gave the performance we expected
With the Reign, Giant have ticked all the essential contemporary long-travel trail bike boxes. The 67.5° head angle extends the front centre of the bike by more than 1cm, increasing confidence and stability in high speed, ‘lean back and let it fly’ situations. While the bar width isn’t freeride wide, it’s long enough for reassuring leverage, and the stubby 70mm stem on our medium-sized bike is bang-on for making light work of quick-reaction situations.
There’s definite twist in the fork tips, but the Overdrive head tube steers the Kenda Nevegal front tyre with predictable accuracy. Rear wheel tracking is tight, although the long rear end means the Reign prefers to stay in a straight line rather than snap round quickly. You can make it more responsive and manageable by dropping the Fox 32 TALAS fork travel down to 120mm (4.7in).
The lower front end also keeps the bike more controllable on sharp climbs, where the light, fast-reacting wheelset and the broad middle ring range of the transmission make a big difference to altitude-gain enthusiasm. However, despite an extremely intense 25-hour ride period on the bike, the rear suspension never felt like we wanted it too.
We set sag in the normal way, made sure we were getting full travel and wound and toggled through every rebound and compression damping setting. Whatever we tried, the short 200mm shock always felt overworked and inert, reacting to bumps more like a 5in-travel bike than a 6in one. The ProPedal platform damping lever was also essential to stop mushy bob under power.
A definite disappointment and confusing considering we’re happy with the way the same system works on the 4in-travel Anthem, the 5in Trance and the 7in Faith. Add the long wheelbase stability and this ultimately leaves the Reign feeling best suited for long-distance big hill work rather than short attention span, big-risk rides.
Frame & equipment: Totally reworked chassis decked out with cross-country spec kit
The totally reworked frame now has a multi-sided, thinner-walled down tube and other hydroformed pipes to shave weight, plus the linkages and chainstay yokes have been trimmed extensively. A press-fit bottom bracket, DMD front mech and post-style rear brake mount save even more weight and bring the frame bang up to date. But the Reign keeps hold of its forebear’s 152mm-travel (6in) Maestro twin linkage suspension.
Elsewhere, the neat cable routing includes clips under the rocker pivot, there’s a conventional bottle cage mount and a Y brace ahead of the wheel removes the need for a tyre-cramping bridge across the stays. Having a dropper seatpost as standard gets round previous Reigns’ seatpost-lowering issues, caused by the curved seat tube, although the seat quick-release looks cheap for a flagship bike.
While the slacker frame suggests a more aggro orientation, the kit definitely positions the Reign in the long-travel trail category. The Fox 32 TALAS RC fork is one of the lightest 150mm-travel (5.9in) adjustable forks available. Even with a 15QR screw-through axle, it’s relatively flexy and lacks the gold-coloured Kashima coating of 2011 aftermarket forks, though.
Hidden under a dark limited edition colourway are a pair of DT Swiss Tricon wheels. They’re seriously pricey and stiff but super-light. The rims are narrow though, and the DT Swiss RWS skewer needs careful use to avoid stripping the plastic ratchet. The colour-coded Avid Elixir CR brakes have lightweight 185/160mm alloy spider rotors, while the 690mm-wide Giant Contact bars are carbon fibre.
You also get a full triple chainset, 30-speed Dyna-Sys XT transmission and a Fi’zi:k Gobi saddle – the distance rider’s favourite. In fact, the only concessions to more aggressive riding are a soft Stick-E compound front tyre and remote control CrankBrothers Joplin 4 dropper seatpost. Constant ‘auto drop’ problems with our post and several others on the Giant demo fleet suggest the latter may prove an unreliable addition to the mix.